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High Planes Models 1/72 scale De Havilland Sea Vixen

Manufacturer: High Planes Models, 127 Wheeler St., Corryong, Victoria 3707, Australia, 61-260-76-1961, www.corryongcec.net.au/~hiplanes/ index.html
Kit: No. 72036 Scale: 1/72
Price: N/A
Comments: Injection-molded plastic, 44 parts (5 resin, 1 vacuum-formed canopy), decals
Pros: Fine recessed panel lines, good resin parts, excellent canopy, excellent decals

Cons: Poor fit, some parts incompletely molded, many parts must be scratchbuilt
The Sea Vixen was the ultimate extension of de Havilland's Vampire/ Venom series of twin-tail jets. Much bigger than the earlier fighters, the Sea Vixen featured a large radar nose, radar guided missiles, and a radar operator's station down inside the right side of the fuselage. The Sea Vixen was replaced with Phantoms on Royal Navy carriers in the late 1960s.

Letting the buyer know right up front what they're getting, the only description on the kit box besides its title and the company logo is the notation "for experienced modelers" - they're not kidding, either. The instructions provide the modeler with helpful hints along the way to ease construction, with notations in the text such as "hopefully all alignment will be correct" and "the goal is to obtain the tightest fit possible." The instruction sheet also lists seven good reference sources for completing the model - more good advice, as this kit really requires some additional reference material.

The kit gives the option of constructing a Sea Vixen FAW.1, FAW.2, or the colorful D.3 drone version. I opted for the most difficult version, the FAW.2.

The kit is molded in light-blue plastic with fine recessed panel lines. The plastic is somewhat softer than in other kits. That's a blessing, because there's plenty of sanding, shaping, and truing up to be done. Fortunately, the plastic bonds well, resulting in a strong model.

High Planes' well-executed resin parts include main landing gear struts, a nose gear and wheel, pilot's ejection seat, and the dual jet exhaust fairing. An excellent vacuum-formed canopy is also included.

The parts aren't numbered, and since the conformal fuel tanks, fins, and wheel halves are right/left handed, they should be identified before construction. Several parts must be scratchbuilt: the control stick, nose-wheel doors, wing fences, refueling boom, speedbrake strakes, pitot probes, main landing gear drag braces, and intake vanes.

The interior is limited to the pilot's cockpit only, and comprises a deck, aft bulkhead, instrument panel (with detail), and two sidewall consoles. I used some decals from my spares box to add to the consoles.

Though the kit's exterior detail is good, the draft angle on many plastic parts is shallow, resulting in corners not sharp or square, and mating surfaces not true to one another - be prepared to fill and sand. Small amounts of flash on some parts make it unclear what side of each part must be trimmed.

The fit is below average. Many parts don't match up right. The conformal fuel tanks' lower fairings in my sample kit were short-molded, so I had to build them up to proper dimensions with sheet styrene and gap-filling super glue. There are occasional blemishes that need to be sanded away, too.

The canopy and the separate bulged frangible radar operator's hatch (common to the FAW.2 and D.3) wouldn't fit side-by-side, as the hatch is too large. I shaved the hatch down some, but resorted to opening the canopy to relieve the space crunch.

The main landing gear doors were too short (the fairings didn't line up with the tail booms), so I cut them out of the fuselage and lengthened them with .040" plastic spacers. I also lined the wheel-well openings with strip plastic to refine their edges, then cemented the doors back into place. This was more work than necessary, particularly for something that was going to be on the bottom and largely unseen, but the result was far better than what I started with.

The overwing conformal fuel tanks needed extensive trimming and filing, and were the most difficult parts to fit. The lower right fuselage didn't match up with the resin exhaust, and I would have sanded through the plastic there getting it to do so.

The decal sheet from Fantasy Printshop is excellent, with dead-on registration, and the markings all snuggled down nicely. Six markings options are provided, an FAW.1, a D.3, and four FAW.2s; I couldn't determine whether the No. 899 Squadron's sharkmouth design had a gray mouth as the decal sheet portrays, or a red one as most reference drawings show. I decided on red and added a red trim film background. I simulated the observer's canopy with black decal which portrays the heavily tinted transparency; in fact, the radar operator's station was referred to as the "coal hole" by Sea Vixen crewmembers.

I spent about 50 hours working on this kit, most of it fitting, filing, and sanding - I could have spent even more. The finished model measures 9 scale inches short in span and 10 scale inches short in length - less than 2 percent off and perfectly acceptable in this scale.

Although I struggled with the fit, the further I progressed, the more I liked this kit. I was satisfied with the result and recommend this kit to those modelers who can accept and master the challenges of a "5-F" kit (file, fill, fit, fiddle, and fuss).

High Planes' Sea Vixen would make a good project for intermediate modelers who want to improve their skills.

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